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Ofsted to give schools separate grades for their sixth forms and early-years' provision

Schools will be given separate Ofsted grades for their sixth forms and early-years' provision, under plans unveiled by the watchdog this morning.

The inspectorate has launched a consultation on the proposals, which are due to come into effect in September. The new judgements would be given as part of the overall inspection, and contribute towards a school's overall grade.

The move to give a separate grade for post-16 provision has been warmly welcomed by colleges, which have long called for sixth forms to be given an individual grade to allow students to compare post-16 provision at different types of institutions.

The proposed changes are “designed to ensure inspectors place as much emphasis on these important stages of children’s education as on the quality of provision for five- to 16-year-olds”, the consultation says. It is seeking views on whether they will provide a “more rounded view of those academies and local authority maintained schools that provide these stages of education”.

The proposals come as the watchdog is expected to announce “wider, longer-term changes” to its inspection regime in the coming weeks. Debate around the future of Ofsted has intensified in recent days with a report by think tank Policy Exchange published yesterday calling for an end to lesson observations, and for Ofsted to consider scrapping the use of privately-contracted inspectors.

Ofsted’s national director for schools, Michael Cladingbowl, said: “We know that the early years of education set children up for life – so it is really important that schools get this right. I want our inspection reports to be even clearer about how well children are doing in reception and nursery classes.

"It’s also important that parents and young people have a clear understanding of how well the school’s sixth form is doing so they can make informed choices about where to continue their studies when they reach 16.”

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, welcomed the announcement.

“We’re very pleased that sixth forms will be graded separately,” he said. “We’re pleased that, in principle, there’s an acceptance that they should be judged on the same criteria as sixth-form colleges, and be given a separate grade but, of course, the devil is in the detail. If young people and parents are going to make the important decision to choose a provider, they need to be able to compare them.”

The consultation ends on 13 May.

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